Sunday, November 21, 2021

Element, Spirit and Godhood (TPJS 156-57; 205-06, 232-36; 343-52; 364-67) QUESTIONS



The first section of this post is a small part of the “Epistle to the Church” written by Joseph Smith while in Liberty Jail, Clay County Missouri, on March 25, 1839, not long before his release or escape.  Other sections of this letter were canonized in the D&C as sections 121-123 (see those lessons in the D&C).  See TPJS standard edition page 137 or 156-157, in the edition I use (Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith).

 The second discourse used in this post was given by Joseph Smith at the organization of a school of instruction, on January 5, 1841.  See TPJS standard edition pages 180-182 or pages 205-206, in my edition. 

 The third is an excerpt from an editorial Joseph Smith published in the Nauvoo newspaper “The Times and Seasons” on April 1, 1842, called “Try the Spirits”.  See TPJS standard edition 204-208 or 232-236, in the edition I use. 

 The fourth is a discourse given by Joseph Smith to a large assembly of the Saints at the unfinished Nauvoo Temple site on June 11, 1843, almost a year before his death.  See TPJS standard edition pages 307-312 (and the “bag of sand” reference on page 314 or 352 in mine), and pages 343-350, in the STPJS version.   

 The fifth was a sermon Joseph Smith gave at the demise of James Adams on October 9, 1843.  Standard version pages 324-326 or 364-367 in STPJS. 


 Ascend On High and Descend Below All

 READ TPJS 156:3-157:2

A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men.

How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations—too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God, according to the purposes of His will, from before the foundation of the world! We are called to hold the keys of the mysteries of those things that have been kept hid from the foundation of the world until now. Some have tasted a little of these things, many of which are to be poured down from heaven upon the heads of babes; yea, upon the weak, obscure and despised ones of the earth. Therefore we beseech of you, brethren, that you bear with those who do not feel themselves more worthy than yourselves, while we exhort one another to a reformation with one and all, both old and young, teachers and taught, both high and low, rich and poor, bond and free, male and female; let honesty, and sobriety, and candor, and solemnity, and virtue, and pureness, and meekness, and simplicity crown our heads in every place; and in fine, become as little children, without malice, guile or hypocrisy.


How do you commune with God?

Are we to study the “dark arts”?



There is Only One Priesthood

 READ TPJS 205:2

“Answer to the question, Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died? All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.”


What does it mean that “all priesthood is Melchizedek”?

Why are their different portions or degrees of priesthood if there really is just one priesthood?

What is implied by the fact that all prophets are ordained by God Himself?



The Nature of Element, Spirit and Godhood

 READ TPJS 205:3-206:4

The elements are eternal. That which has a beginning will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beginning or end—cut it for a beginning place and at the same time you have an ending place.  A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. The sun has no beginning or end; the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal.  So it is with God. If the soul of man had a beginning it will surely have an end. In the translation “without form and void” it should be read, empty and desolate. The word created should be formed, or organized.

That which is without body, parts and passions is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones. John 5:26. As the Father hath life in himself, even so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. God the Father took life unto himself precisely as Jesus did.  The first step in salvation of man is the laws of eternal and self-existent principles. Spirits are eternal. At the first organization in heaven we were all present, and saw the Savior chosen and appointed and the plan of salvation made, and we sanctioned it.  We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the celestial kingdom. The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The devil has no body, and herein is his punishment. He is pleased when he can obtain the tabernacle of man, and when cast out by the Savior he asked to go into the herd of swine, showing that he would prefer a swine’s body to having none.  All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power. This earth will be rolled back into the presence of God, and crowned with celestial glory.


What can we learn from Joseph’s statement that the elements are eternal?

If “that which is without body, parts and passions is nothing” but Satan does not have a body, then does he exist?

Does the statement “there is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones” mean that there is not a plurality of Gods?

How did the Father take life unto Himself and what is implied?


READ TPJS 349:4-5

As the Father hath power in Himself, so hath the Son power in Himself, to lay down His life and take it again, so He has a body of His own. The Son doeth what He hath seen the Father do: then the Father hath some day laid down His life and taken it again; so He has a body of His own; each one will be in His own body; and yet the sectarian world believe the body of the Son is identical with the Father’s.  Gods have an ascendency over the angels, who are ministering servants. In the resurrection, some are raised to be angels, others are raised to become Gods.


What does having power in oneself enable you to do?

What does the phrase “body of your own” imply?

What does it mean that “each one” will be in His own body?

What is implied by the fact that the Father also laid down His life and took it up again?


READ TPJS 348:5-349:2

There is much said about God and the Godhead. The scriptures say there are Gods many and Lords many, but to us there is but one living and true God, and the heaven of heavens could not contain him; for he took the liberty to go into other heavens. The teachers of the day say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and they are all in one body and one God. Jesus prayed that those that the Father had given him out of the world might be made one in them, as they were one [one in spirit, in mind, in purpose]. If I were to testify that the Christian world were wrong on this point, my testimony would be true.  Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all.


What does “Gods many and Lords many” mean?

What does it mean that although there are many Gods and Lords in heaven, that there is only one “living and true God”?

What does it mean that the heavens could not contain God and that He took the liberty to go into other heavens?

If Joseph Smith saw “two personages” in the Sacred Grove, the Lectures on Faith teach of only two personages, Orson Hyde is shown as being the one to introduce the false doctrine of the Holy Ghost being a personage (see D&C 131), and the Temple never mentions the HG, why does it say here that any person who has seen into the heavens knows there are three personages who hold the keys of power?


READ TPJS 232:2-333:1

Every one of these professes to be competent to try his neighbor’s spirit, but no one can try his own, and what is the reason? Because they have not a key to unlock, no rule wherewith to measure, and no criterion whereby they can test it. Could anyone tell the length, breadth or height of a building without a rule? Test the quality of metals without a criterion, or point out the movements of the planetary systems, without a knowledge of astronomy? Certainly not; and if such ignorance as this is manifested about a spirit of this kind, who can describe an angel of light? If Satan should appear as one in glory, who can tell his color, his signs, his appearance, his glory, or what is the manner of his manifestation? Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, and visions and tongues, and interpretations, etc. Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without the Priesthood, and having a knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings.  A man must have the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. Thousands have felt the influence of its terrible power and baneful effects. Long pilgrimages have been undertaken, penances endured, and pain, misery and ruin have followed in their train; nations have been convulsed, kingdoms overthrown, provinces laid waste, and blood, carnage and desolation are habiliments in which it has been clothed.


What does it mean to “try a spirit”?

Why do we have such difficulty “trying our own sprits”?

What descriptors does Joseph use to differentiate one spirit from another?

Why is it so hard for mankind to tell what kind of spirits are influencing them?

Why is being under the influence of a false spirit when you think it is the Spirit of God so damaging?



As we have noticed before, the great difficulty lies in the ignorance of the nature of spirits, of the laws by which they are governed, and the signs by which they may be known; if it requires the Spirit of God to know the things of God; and the spirit of the devil can only be unmasked through that medium, then it follows as a natural consequence that unless some person or persons have a communication, or revelation from God, unfolding to them the operation of the spirit, they must eternally remain ignorant of these principles; for I contend that if one man cannot understand these things but by the Spirit of God, ten thousand men cannot; it is alike out of the reach of the wisdom of the learned, the tongue of the eloquent, the power of the mighty. And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the multifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men.


How can you discern the spirits that influence you?

Why does the world always mistake false prophets for true ones, and think that true prophets are false?


READ TPJS 345:4-346:1

Many men will say, “I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.” But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them, they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation.  Many things are insoluble to the children of men in the last days: for instance, that God should raise the dead, and forgetting that things have been hid from before the foundation of the world, which are to be revealed to babes in the last days.

There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore, they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. 


How can men and women who have been prepared to receive further light and knowledge and proclaim that they will never forsake it, be the first to attempt to put you to death?



In tracing the thing to the foundation, and looking at it philosophically, we shall find a very material difference between the body and the spirit; the body is supposed to be organized matter, and the spirit, by many, is thought to be immaterial, without substance. With this latter statement we should beg leave to differ, and state the spirit is a substance; that it is material, but that it is more pure, elastic and refined matter than the body; that it existed before the body, can exist in the body; and will exist separate from the body, when the body will be mouldering in the dust; and will in the resurrection be again united with it


What are the similarities and differences between the spirit and the body?


READ TPJS 236:1-2

Without attempting to describe this mysterious connection, and the laws that govern the body and the spirit of man, their relationship to each other, and the design of God in relation to the human body and spirit, I would just remark, that the spirits of men are eternal, that they are governed by the same Priesthood that Abraham, Melchizedek, and the Apostles were: that they are organized according to that Priesthood which is everlasting, “without beginning of days or end of years,”—that they all move in their respective spheres, and are governed by the law of God; that when they appear upon the earth they are in a probationary state, and are preparing, if righteous, for a future and greater glory; that the spirits of good men cannot interfere with the wicked beyond their prescribed bounds, for Michael the Archangel dared not bring a railing accusation against the devil, but said, “The Lord rebuke thee, Satan.”

It would seem also, that wicked spirits have their bounds, limits, and laws by which they are governed or controlled, and know their future destiny; hence, those that were in the maniac said to our Savior, “Art thou come to torment us before the time,” and when Satan presented himself before the Lord among the sons of God, he said that he came “from going to and fro in the earth, and from wandering up and down in it;” and he is emphatically called the prince of the power of the air; and, it is very evident that they possess a power that none but those who have the Priesthood can control, as we have before adverted to, in the case of the sons of Sceva.


What can we learn from the fact that both wicked spirits and good spirits have their bounds?

What does the fact that the Devil’s minions know their fate teach us about them?



I will say something about the spirits in prison. Thee has been much said by modern divines about the words of Jesus (when on the cross) to the thief, saying, “This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” King James’ translators make it out to say paradise. But what is paradise? It is a modern word: it does not answer at all to the original word that Jesus made use of. Find the original of the word paradise. You may as easily find a needle in a haymow. Here is a chance for battle, ye learned men. There is nothing in the original word in Greek from which this was taken that signifies paradise; but it was—This day thou shalt be with me in the world of spirits: then I will teach you all about it and answer your inquiries. And Peter says he went and preached to the world of spirits (spirits in prison, 1 Peter, 3rd chap. 19th verse), so that they who would receive it could have it answered by proxy by those who live on the earth, etc.


TPJS 347:2-348:2

It always has been when a man was sent of God with the priesthood and he began to preach the fullness of the gospel, that he was thrust out by his friends, who are already to butcher him if he teach things which they imagine to be wrong; and Jesus was crucified upon this principle, I will now turn linguist. There are many things in the Bible which do not, as they now stand, accord with the revelations of the Holy Ghost to me. I will criticize a little further. There has been much said about the word hell, and the sectarian world have preached much about it, describing it to be a burning lake of fire and brimstone. But what is hell? It is another modern term, and is taken from hades. I’ll hunt after hades as Pat did for the woodchuck.  Hades, the Greek, or Sheol, the Hebrew, these two significations mean a world of spirits. Hades, Sheol, paradise, spirits in prison, are all one: it is a world of spirits.  The righteous and the wicked all go to the same world of spirits until the resurrection. “I do not think so,” says one. If you will go to my house any time, I will take my lexicon and prove it to you.  The great misery of departed spirits in the world of spirits, where they go after death, is to know that they come short of the glory that others enjoy and that they might have enjoyed themselves, and they are their own accusers. “But,” says one, “I believe in one universal heaven and hell, where all go, and are all alike, and equally miserable or equally happy.”  What! where all are huddled together—the honorable, virtuous, and murderers, and whoremongers, when it is written that they shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body? But St. Paul informs us of three glories and three heavens. He knew a man that was caught up to the third heavens. Now, if the doctrine of the sectarian world, that there is but one heaven, is true, Paul, what do you tell that lie for, and say there are three? Jesus said unto His disciples, “In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and I will come and receive you to myself, that where I am ye may be also.”


What does Joseph Smith teach us here about the world of spirits?

What does Joseph’s statement, quoting Christ, about “many mansions” in heaven imply?


READ TPJS 364:7-365:3

All men know that they must die. And it is important that we should understand the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life and of death, and the designs and purposes of God in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence. What is the object of our coming into existence, then dying and falling away, to be here no more? It is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter, and it is a subject we ought to study more than any other. We ought to study it day and night, for the world is ignorant in reference to their true condition and relation. If we have any claim on our Heavenly Father for anything, it is for knowledge on this important subject. Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.  We are only capable of comprehending that certain things exist, which we may acquire by certain fixed principles. If men would acquire salvation, they have got to be subject, before they leave this world, to certain rules and principles, which were fixed by an unalterable decree before the world was. The disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection would be indescribably dreadful.


How can we truly understand why we chose to leave the presence of God to come down to this telestial world?

Why does “gazing into heaven five minutes” give you more knowledge than by reading all that was ever written on the subject?

What is Joseph implying by saying that we need our own revelation regarding our condition?

What does it mean that we must be subject to certain rules and principles before we leave this world?


READ TPJS 365:4-366:1

The organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeable to the most perfect order and harmony: their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to in their heavenly estate by themselves, and were by our first parents subscribed to upon the earth. Hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth by all men upon the earth that expect eternal life.


When Joseph talks about the “organization” of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, what is he referring to?

What is our opportunity with regards to eternal law?


READ TPJS 366:2-4

I assure the Saints that truth, in reference to these matters, can and may be known through the revelations of God in the way of His ordinances, and in answer to prayer. The Hebrew Church “came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the new covenant.” What did they learn by coming to the spirits of just men made perfect? Is it written? No. What they learned has not been and could not have been written. What object was gained by this communication with the spirits of the just? It was the established order of the kingdom of God: The keys of power and knowledge were with them to communicate to the Saints. Hence the importance of understanding the distinction between the spirits of the just and angels.  Spirits can only be revealed in flaming fire and glory. Angels have advanced further, their light and glory being tabernacled; and hence they appear in bodily shape. The spirits of just men are made ministering servants to those who are sealed unto life eternal, and it is through them that the sealing power comes down.  Patriarch Adams is now one of the spirits of the just men made perfect; and, if revealed now, must be revealed in fire; and the glory could not be endured. Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, and they thought it was His spirit, and they were afraid to approach His spirit. Angels have advanced higher in knowledge and power than spirits.


Why did the Hebrew Church members part the veil and come into the presence of Gods and angels?

What is the implication that “spirits of just men” and angels are different?

What can we learn from the fact that spirits of the just can only be revealed in flaming fire and glory?


READ TPJS 367:1-4

Concerning Brother James Adams, it should appear strange that so good and so great a man was hated. The deceased ought never to have had an enemy. But so it was. Wherever light shone, it stirred up darkness. Truth and error, good and evil cannot be reconciled. Judge Adams had some enemies, but such a man ought not to have had one. I saw him first at Springfield, when on my way from Missouri to Washington. He sought me out when a stranger, took me to his home, encouraged and cheered me, and gave me money. He has been a most intimate friend. I anointed him to the patriarchal power—to receive the keys of knowledge and power, by revelation to himself. He has had revelations concerning his departure, and has gone to a more important work. When men are prepared, they are better off to go hence. Brother Adams has gone to open up a more effectual door for the dead. The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work; hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith.  Flesh and blood cannot go there; but flesh and bones quickened by the Spirit of God, can.  If we would be sober and watch in fasting and prayer, God would turn away sickness from our midst.  Hasten the work in the Temple, renew your exertions to forward all the work of the last days, and walk before the Lord in soberness and righteousness. Let the Elders and Saints do away with lightmindedness, and be sober.


Why can light and darkness not be reconciled?

What happens when a being of light walks among beings of darkness?

Why are men better off to go to the spirit world if they are prepared to go?

How involved in our lives are those in the spirit world?

What is the nature of the veil that separates the mortal world from the spirit world and heavens?



The Ordinances of the House of the Lord

 READ TPJS 344:3

The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose.


What kind of “house” does the Lord want to build?

Why are ordinances needed to build a house or family of God?


READ TPJS 344:4-345:1

It was the design of the councils of heaven before the world was, that the principles and laws of the priesthood should be predicated upon the gathering of the people in every age of the world. Jesus did everything to gather the people, and they would not be gathered, and He therefore poured out curses upon them. Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles.

It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings, etc. One of the ordinances of the house of the Lord is baptism for the dead. God decreed before the foundation of the world that that ordinance should be administered in a font prepared for that purpose in the house of the Lord. “This is only your opinion, sir,” says the sectarian.


Why is exaltation (which is to join the family of God as an heir) predicated upon gathering groups of people rather than individuals?

Why did Christ pour out curses on those who would not be gathered?

Why are the ordinances not to be altered?



If a man gets a fullness of the priesthood of God he has to get it in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained it, and that was by keeping all the commandments and obeying all the ordinances of the house of the Lord.

 How does one get a fullness of the Priesthood, which allows you to stand in God’s presence (see D&C 84:19-22)?


READ TPJS 349:6-350:2

These things are revealed in the most holy places in a Temple prepared for that purpose. Many of the sects cry out, “Oh, I have the testimony of Jesus; I have the spirit of God; but away with Joe Smith; he says he is a prophet; but there are to be no prophets or revelators in the last days.” Stop, sir! The Revelator says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; so by your own mouth you are condemned. But to the text. Why gather the people together in this place? For the same purpose that Jesus wanted to gather the Jews—to receive the ordinances, the blessings, and glories that God has in store for His Saints.  I will now ask this assembly and all the Saints if you will now build this house and receive the ordinances and blessings which God has in store for you; or will you not build unto the Lord this house, and let Him pass by and bestow these blessings upon another people? I pause for a reply. 


Joseph Smith gives this challenge to the Saints in Nauvoo two years and five months after receiving D&C 124 when the Lord commanded them to build a Temple in which to receive back the High Priesthood that had been lost to them, but gave them a deadline in which to do it; what does this statement by Joseph tell us?

READ TPJS 352:3-4

So far we are agreed with other Christian denominations. They all preach faith and repentance. The gospel requires baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, which is the meaning of the word in the original language—namely, to bury or immerse.

We ask the sects, Do you believe this? They answer, No. I believe in being converted. I believe in this tenaciously. So did the Apostle Peter and the disciples of Jesus. But I further believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. Evidence by Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:38. You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man, if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

 Why is baptism by water alone but half a baptism?

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